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Russia Marks Victory Over Nazis With Military Parade

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Chinese President Xi Jinping watch the Victory Day Parade on Red Square in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Chinese President Xi Jinping watch the Victory Day Parade on Red Square in Moscow.

A huge military parade has been held in the Russian capital, Moscow, to commemorate 70 years since victory over Nazi Germany by Allied forces.

Some 16,000 troops took part in the Victory Day parade in Red Square with President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other top officials, both Russian and foreign, in attendance.

Addressing the gathering, Putin thanked the Allies for their contributions to the victory, singling out France, Britain, and the United States.

Putin said "our grandfathers lived through horrible suffering."

He criticized the "folly" of creating a "unipolar" world, an apparent swipe at the United States.

High-tech military equipment was on display, including the Armata T-14, the country's first new battle tank to be deployed in 40 years.

Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade on Red Square.

Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade on Red Square.

More than 20 world leaders attended, including Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Putin took special note in his speech of China's role in the war, saying that like the Soviet Union "it lost many, many millions of people."

In a sign of closer ties between Russia and China, a column of Chinese troops took part in the events.

Cuban leader Raul Castro and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe were also on hand.

But Western leaders boycotted the event in Moscow in protest over Russian actions in Ukraine.

Russia denies accusations by the West that it is arming separatists in Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

More than 6,100 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Putin later led a rally, known as the Immortal Regiment march, with people holding pictures of relatives who fought during the war.

Police said more than 500,000 people joined the rally through Red Square in one of the largest turnouts in the country's recent history.

Afterwards, Putin met at the Kremlin with visiting Czech President Milos Zeman, one of a handful of Western leaders in Moscow for the festivities though he did not attend the military parade.

Putin praised Zeman for what he called the Czech leader's "independent position."

Zeman's trip to Moscow on May 9 was stirred controversy at home.

Analysts say the military parade in Moscow is a show of strength by Putin, who denounced as "absurd" Western sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Smaller parades in 25 other cities will involve 25,000 soldiers and even nuclear submarines, according to the Defense Ministry.

The Soviet Union lost an estimated 26 million people in the war, more than any other country.

Over 70 percent of Russians say a close family member was killed or went missing during the war.

Putin has increasingly used the annual celebrations to enhance his portrayal of his nation as a strong country that saved the world from Nazi aggression and now stands firm against a global threat from a bellicose United States that, in his depiction, is bent on domination.

In Minsk, U.S. servicemen marched together with Russian soldiers in the Victory Day parade in the Belarusian capital.

Opening the May 9 parade, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said it was "deeply symbolic" that representatives of the U.S. and Russian armed forces were taking part.

Forty members of the U.S. Air Force band were among more than 5,000 troops in the parade.

The show of Allied unity in Minsk was in sharp contrast to the military parade in Moscow, which was shunned by the United States and most European countries because of Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict.

Lukashenka, a close ally of Putin, had surprisingly announced that he also would not go to Moscow for the Victory Day parade.

Belarus has close ties with Russia, but Lukashenka has tried recently to serve as a bridge to the West by hosting Ukraine peace talks.

With reporting by RFE/RL, AP, and Reuters
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